Bear McCreary (Composer - 'Human Target')
'Targeting the Ensemble'
Composer Bear McCreary’s soundtrack for the first season of 'Human Target' will be released in two different configurations, a digital release from WaterTower Music on October 5th and a physical version from La-La Land Records, on October 19, 2010.
Indeed, McCreary earned his first Emmy Award® nomination for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music with 'Human Target.'
WaterTower Music will be releasing a digital version, the equivalent of a two-disc set, featuring 160 minutes of music, on October 5th. Four of the 43 tracks on this set are from the season finale “Christopher Chance”, which featured an unprecedented 94 musicians.
Many of the tracks on the set were spotlighted by McCreary on his blog ( www.bearmccreary.com/blog) where he gave insight into his approach after each episode aired.
Also on October 19th, La-La Land Records will release a limited edition (2000 units) 3-CD physical version. The third disc contains bonus tracks including an alternate version of the “Main Title,” with exclusive demos and sketches that give an in-depth look at his creative process. For the first time ever, McCreary has allowed for the release of his works-in-progress, including an abandoned concept for the main title.
McCreary’s sweeping theme music is influenced by a more traditional approach to action/adventure scoring. Each episode of the first season of Human Target featured as much as 30 minutes of music played by an average of 60 musicians, making it the “largest group of musicians to play on a live-action TV series in years” according to a recent article in Variety.
I chatted recently to Bear McCreary about his work on 'Human Target,' and first wondered, being that this new soundtrack score he had created for 'Human Target' was now the "largest group of musicians to play on a live-action TV series in years," what had compelled him to make the musical ensemble so large this time? "The epic and rousing sound of 'Human Target - Season 1' is a direct result of my collaboration with producer / creator Jonathan E. Steinberg. He knew from the beginning that he wanted a bombastic, orchestral score and set out to find the composer who could deliver it. Within 5 minutes of meeting each other, we started geeking out over our favorite film composers and knew we'd get along well."
"With the right producer in my corner, we set out to tackle this thing together. Jon made sure that the studio set aside the budget required to make this happen, while I figured out the logistics of writing and producing 30 minutes of orchestral music every seven days. It was a daunting challenge, but everyone on the project had so much fun, it didn't really feel like work at all. From the executive producer, to me, to the engineers, orchestrators and musicians... everyone brought their excitement and passion to 'Human Target'."
And as it was the "largest group ... in years," what WAS the one before it, all those years ago, that it just beat out?! "I don't actually know, but let me put this in perspective for you. Typically, TV is scored entirely with synthesizers and samplers. The average show has ZERO live musicians. Then, a good chunk of them are scored with a couple of soloists here and there. A slim margin are scored with orchestras ranging in size from 20 to 35. There are probably two or three series (big budget animated mega-hits) that use an orchestra of 40 or so. The average "Human Target" orchestra was 65 players. The season finale was scored with 95. This was a feature-film-quality score in every way."
'Human Target' is being released in two different configurations - a digital release and a physical version aka CD - so what will be the main differences between the two? Will one have more tracks on it, or alternate versions than the other, perhaps? "The versions will be very different."
"The digital release will be 160 minutes of score, more than enough for any casual fan. However, the true soundtrack fans are going to want the CD release which includes an additional HOUR of score, as well as an expanded booklet with exclusive liner notes from Jon Steinberg, star Mark Valley and myself. Both releases include multiple versions of the Main Title."
You actually earned your first Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music for 'Human Target.' Congratulations! Having said that, I fully expected this theme to be more 'Bondish,' if you know what I mean. So, why choose to 'quieten it down,' instead of allowing it to become more frantically 'spyish'? "Quiet it down? If that Main Title were any louder or bigger it would blow out speakers! Seriously, though, I know what you mean. When I first read the pilot script and knew it was airing on FOX, I was certain that the music would eventually end up being exactly what you are describing: a pedestrian rehash of Bond licks, rock guitars with a crunchy distorted drum kit underneath."
"However, Steinberg had a remarkable vision that this series would harken back to the glory days of action movies. In fact, he wanted it to feel like you're watching a different action movie every week, with the same recurring lovable characters. Writing an epic, orchestral main title was a way of proudly announcing to the audience that "Human Target" was not going to be the stereotypical "Bond" or "Bourne" rip-off that so many television series tend to be. Recognition from the Academy was a re-assuring surprise that we had done the right thing."
Being that you undoubtedly sat through each episode of 'Human Target' to get a feel for them, before undertaking the role of composer thereafter, does said film you are given to watch have any music/sounds to it before you work your magic? "During the process of editing, almost everything in television and film is smothered in temporary music, or what we call a "temp score." Ideally, this is to give the editors and producers an idea of how music might function within any given sequence. All too often, however, producers fall in love with the temp score and ask composers to simply mimic it. This rarely leads to musical innovation or creative scoring."
"Steinberg was aware of the these potential risks and allowed me to help craft the temp score. So, when I first watched an episode, it was almost always temped with a piece of music I'd selected for the episode, almost always drawing from a previous episode of 'Human Target'."
"And, to his credit, Jon rarely felt strongly about the temp at all. In fact, watching episodes with him, we would frequently point out places where the temp was failing and he encouraged me to find a more creative solution."
You also created an alternate version of the 'Main Title' for the physical version aka CD. Further, you have allowed-to-be-included on these discs an ABANDONED concept for the 'Main Title'! Why create an alternate and why allow the abandoned concept to see the light of day though? "Yes, the 'Human Target' CD package also includes two demos from my sketching phase, including an early abandoned draft of the main theme. I've never released sketches before, so this is an unprecedented opportunity for fans to see behind the musical curtain."
"The abandoned theme concept is similar in some aspects and different in others when compared to the finished product. Fans will be able to hear how I initially struggled to step away from my dark and exotic "Battlestar Galactica" or "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" roots."
Were you a fan of the comic books? "I've read comics my whole life, but had never followed 'Human Target.' I actually didn't read them when scoring the series, because I wanted to focus on the adventurous nature of the show. I've since read several issues and have really enjoyed them. The tone is very different, of course. Were I to score the comic books themselves, the music would be much darker and more typically noir."
In your opinion, how will this version of 'Human Target' (film wise) succeed where Rick Springfield's 1992 version failed? Could it all be in the music, perhaps?! "The music, definitely the music! Although, I saw the Main Title of the old version on YouTube and ... it was actually pretty awesome, in its way."
The opening theme, and subsequent scenes throughout each episode, have a heavy Indiana Jones feel about them. Maybe not as euphoric, as loud as Indiana Jones, but it definitely has that triumphant, quieted bass line to it. Intentional or unintentional? "Totally intentional. The three biggest influences on "Human Target" season 1, both in terms of music and over-all tone were the "Indiana Jones," "Lethal Weapon" and "Die Hard" films. They all struck a delicate balance between action, comedy and epic storytelling, and were our models for how to do this."
It's been said that the finale of the season was an episode that you spent more time on than any other episode of the 12. Having just watched the entire first season, what made the finale more musically painstaking for you than the other 11 episodes? "The best answer I can give is to recommend checking out my blog. Here, I discussed the process of scoring every scene and you can watch footage from the orchestral sessions."
Has there ever been a score you turned down and then, after seeing the movie in the theatre, or on DVD, or listened to it on CD, regretted having done so? If so, what was the score to and why the regret? "I've been lucky that I've made so many wise decisions thus far. Certainly, I've had to turn down projects that have turned out to be perfectly solid films or series, but I can't take on everything. I prefer to keep my plate half full and give those projects I do take on my undivided dedication and passion."
Lastly, what new scores are you currently working on? "I recently scored my first studio feature film, "Step Up 3D," for Touchstone Pictures. I got to do a bunch of hip hop and orchestral combinations, which was a thrill. I'm currently scoring the world's first TV zombie-drama, "The Walking Dead" for AMC, working with Frank Darabont and Gale Anne Hurd."
"In January, I'm scoring a kick ass superhero drama coming to NBC, "The Cape," starring Summer Glau and Keith David. That will be a full orchestral score every bit as epic as "Human Target." And I'm also working with Summer Glau again on director Joe Lynch's horror / metal / fantasy masterpiece "Knights of Badassdom." (Yes, it lives up to the name!)"
"All that, plus working to get more live "Battlestar Galactica" concerts up and running next year, and working on a few other secret projects. Things are busy right now."
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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